This thought-provoking but funny picture book will be thoroughly enjoyed by older students as they reflect on their own lives and see the contrast with the simple uncomplicated life of the sweet and endearing rat called Riley. Colin Thompson shows how Riley is born happy and is never anything else during his short life. He has enough to eat, a numerous and supportive family, all of whom are as beautiful as he is. His aspirations are always fulfilled as he is content with what he has and the way things are. Humans, however, want and think they need everything they are never satisfied. The text presents the folly and shame of the way we live. The satire and gentle humour that the story is imbued with makes for a truly unusual picture book with many messages that are really lessons for life.
Amy Lissiat’s beautifully considered illustrations add a good deal to the interpretation of the text. They have been executed with a great deal of thought and add a further dimension to the story. Everyone will enjoy both the text and the illustrations and have a lot of fun talking and thinking about this sophisticated picture book that sets out so many things for consideration.
Read the story and then briefly discuss the following:
Make a list on the whiteboard of all the negatives that the author puts forward about the life of the average human.
Who's Life is Better?
In small groups, invite students to submit reasons to rebut all the long-winded negative human characteristics that the author uses to contrast their lives to Riley. EG We strongly believe that humans are not all greedy and overweight.
Make sure that each group states their point of view using persuasive language and high modality words. Then make sure that they can give reasons and examples to back up their point of view.
EG Many humans are extremely conscious about leading a healthy lifestyle. People strive to eat healthy foods, avoiding too much fat and sugar. They also belong to gyms and sporting clubs. You only have to visit the local parks and pathways to see numerous people walking running and cycling. This is certainly not an example of a greedy, gross and unhealthy lifestyle.